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19 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN IS GOOD IN HIS RELATIONSHIPS
To be good in general is not enough—but we must show piety in our relationships.
He who is good as a MAGISTRATE is godly. The magistrate is God's representative. A godly magistrate holds the balance of justice, and gives everyone his right: "You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly" (Deut. 16:19). A magistrate must judge the cause, not the person. He who allows himself to be corrupted by bribes, is not a judge but a party. A magistrate must do that which is "according to law" (Acts 23:3). And in order that he may do justice, he must examine the cause. The archer who wishes to shoot right, must first see the target.
He who is good as a MINISTER is godly. Ministers must be:
(1) Painstaking. "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2). The minister must not be idle. Sloth is as inexcusable in a minister, as sleeping in a sentry. John the Baptist was a "voice crying" (Matt. 3:3). A dumb minister is of no more use, than a dead physician. A man of God must work in the Lord's vineyard. It was Augustine's wish that Christ might find him at his coming either praying or preaching.
(2) Knowledgeable. "For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction--because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty" (Mal. 2:7). It was said in honor of Gregory Nazianzene that he was an ocean of divinity. The prophets of old were called "seers" (1 Sam. 9:9). It is absurd to have blind seers. Christ said to Peter, "Feed my sheep" (John 21:16). But how sad it is when the shepherd needs to be fed! Ignorance in a minister is like blindness in an optometrist. Under the law, he who had the plague in his head, was unclean (Lev. 13:44).
(3) A plain preacher, suiting his matter and style to the capacity of his audience (1 Cor. 14:19). Some ministers, like eagles, love to soar aloft in abstruse metaphysical notions, thinking they are most admired when they are least understood. They who preach in the clouds, instead of hitting their people's conscience, shoot over their heads.
(4) Zealous in reproving sin. "Rebuke them sharply" (Titus 1:13). Epiphanius said of Elijah, that he sucked fire out of his mother's breasts. A man of God must suck the fire of zeal out of the breasts of Scripture! Zeal in a minister is as proper as fire on the altar. Some are afraid to reprove, like the swordfish which has a sword in his head, but is without a heart. So they carry the sword of the Spirit with them—but have no heart to draw it out in reproof against sin. How many have sown pillows under their people (Ezek. 13:18), making them sleep so securely, that they never awoke until they were in hell!
(5) Holy in heart and life:
(a) In heart. How sad it is for a minister to preach that to others, which he never felt in his own soul; to exhort others to holiness and himself be a stranger to it. Oh, that this were not too often so! How many blow the Lord's trumpet with foul breath!
(b) In life. Under the law, before the priests served at the altar, they washed in the laver. Such as serve in the Lord's house must first be washed from gross sin in the laver of repentance. The life of a minister should be a walking Bible. Basil said of Gregory Nazianzene that he thundered in his doctrine, and lightened in his conduct. A minister must imitate John the Baptist, who was not only "a voice crying"—but "a light shining" (John 5:35). Those who live in contradiction to what they preach, disgrace this excellent calling. And though they are angels by office—yet they are devils in their lives (Jer. 23:15).
He who is good as a HUSBAND is godly. He fills up that relationship with love: "Husbands, love your wives" (Eph. 5:25). The vine twisting its branches about the elm and embracing it may be an emblem of that entire love which should be in the marital relationship. A married condition would be sad--if it had cares to embitter it and not love to sweeten it. Love is the best diamond in the marriage ring! "Isaac loved Rebekah" (Gen. 24:67). Unkindnesses in this close relationship are very unhappy. We read in heathen authors that Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon, in order to revenge an injury received from her husband, first rent the veil of her chastity and afterwards consented to his death. The husband should show his love to his wife by covering infirmities; by avoiding occasions of strife; by sweet, endearing expressions; by pious counsel; by love tokens; by encouraging what he sees amiable and virtuous in her; by mutual prayer; by being with her, unless detained by urgency of business. The pilot who leaves his ship and abandons it entirely to the merciless waves, declares that he does not value it or reckon there is any treasure in it.
The apostle gives a good reason why there should be mutual love between husband and wife: "that your prayers be not hindered" (1 Pet. 3:7). Where anger and bitterness prevail, there prayer is either intermitted or interrupted.
He who is good as a FATHER is godly
(1) A father must drop holy instructions into his children: "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). This is what Abraham did: "I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household, and they shall keep the way of the Lord" (Gen. 18:19). Children are young plants which must be watered with good education, so that they may, with Obadiah, fear the Lord "from their youth up" (1 Kings 18:12). Plato said, "In vain does he expect a harvest, who has been negligent in sowing." Nor can a parent expect to reap any good from a child, where he has not sown the seed of wholesome instruction. And though, notwithstanding all counsel and admonition, the child should die in sin—yet it is a comfort to a godly parent to think that before his child died, he gave it spiritual medicine.
(2) A parent must pray for his children. Monica, the mother of Augustine, prayed for his conversion, and someone said "it was impossible that a son of so many prayers and tears should perish." The soul of your child is in a trap--and will you not pray that it may "escape from the Devil's trap?" (2 Tim. 2:26) Many parents are careful to lay up portions for their children—but they do not lay up prayers for them.
(3) A parent must give his children discipline: "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death" (Proverbs 23:13-14). The rod beats out the dust and moth of sin. A child indulged and humored in wickedness, will prove a burden instead of a blessing. David pampered Adonijah: "his father had never disciplined him at any time" (1 Kings 1:6). And afterwards he was a grief of heart to his father, and wanted to put him off his throne. Discipline is a hedge of thorns--to stop children in their mad race to hell.
He who is good as a MASTER is godly
A godly man promotes true religion in his family; he sets up piety in his house, as well as in his heart: "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart" (Psalm 101:2). "I and my household will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15). I find it written in honor of Cramer, that his family was a nursery of piety. A godly man's house is a little church: "the church which is in his house" (Col. 4:15).
(1) A good man makes known the oracles of God to those who are under his roof. He reads the Word and perfumes his house with prayer. It is recorded of the Jews, that they had sacrifices in their family as well as in the tabernacle (Exod. 12:3).
(2) A godly man provides necessities. He relieves his servants in health and sickness. He is not like that Amalekite who shook off his servant when he was sick, (1 Sam. 30:13)—but rather like the good centurion, who sought Christ for the healing of his sick servant (Matt. 8:5).
(3) A godly man sets his servants a good example. He is sober and heavenly in his deportment; his virtuous life is a good mirror for the servants in the family to dress themselves by.
He who is good in the relationship of a CHILD is godly
He honors his parents. Philo the Jew, placed the fifth commandment in the first table—as if children had not performed their whole devotion to God until they had given honor to their parents. This honoring of parents consists in two things:
(1) In respecting them--which respect is shown both by humility of speech and by attitude. The opposite of this is when a child behaves himself in an unseemly and proud manner. Among the Lacedemonians, if a child had behaved rebelliously towards his parent, it was lawful for the father to appoint someone else to be his heir, and to disinherit that child.
(2) Obeying their commands: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord" (Eph. 6:1). Duty is the interest which children pay their parents, on the capital they have had from them. Christ has set all children a pattern of obedience to their parents: "He was subject unto them" (Luke 2:51). The Rechabites were eminent for this: "I set cups and jugs of wine before them and invited them to have a drink, but they refused. "No," they said. "We don't drink wine, because Jehonadab our ancestor, gave us this command: You and your descendants must never drink wine" (Jer. 35:5,6). Solon was asked why, among the many laws he made, none was against disobedient children. He answered that it was because he thought none would be so wicked.
God has punished children who have refused to pay the tribute of obedience. Absalom, a disobedient son, was hanged in an oak between heaven and earth, as being worthy of neither. Manlius, an old man, being reduced to much poverty, and having a rich son, entreated him only for charity—but could not obtain it. The son disowned him as his father, using reproachful language. The poor old man let tears fall (as witnesses of his grief) and went away. God, to revenge this disobedience of his son, soon afterwards struck him with madness. He in whose heart godliness lives, makes as much conscience of the fifth commandment as of the first.
He who is good as a SERVANT is godly
"Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord." (Col. 3:22; Eph. 6:5). The goodness of servants lies in:
(1) Diligence. Abraham's servant quickly dispatched the business his master entrusted him with (Gen. 24:33).
(2) Cheerfulness. Servants must be cheerful workers, like the centurion's servants: "If I say to one, 'Go,' he goes" (Luke 7:8).
(3) Faithfulness, which consists in two things:
(a) In not defrauding. "Not stealing" (Titus 2:10).
(b) In keeping counsel. It proves the badness of a stomach, when it cannot retain what is put into it, and the badness of a servant when he cannot retain those secrets which his master has committed to him.
(4) Submissiveness. "Be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back" (Titus 2:9). It is better to correct a fault than to minimize it. And what may stimulate a servant in his work is that encouraging scripture, "Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ." (Col. 3:24). If Christ should bid you do a piece of work for him, would you not do it? While you serve your master, you serve the Lord Christ. If you ask what salary you shall have, "the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward."
Use 1: Is it the grand sign of a godly man to be holy in his relationships? Then the Lord be merciful to us. How few godly ones are to be found! Many put on the coat of profession. They will pray and discourse on points of religion—but "What means this bleating of the sheep?" (1 Sam. 15:14). They are not good in their relationships. How bad it is when Christians are defective in family piety!
Can we call a bad magistrate, godly? He perverts equity: "Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word? Do you judge the people fairly? No, all your dealings are crooked; you hand out violence instead of justice" (Psalm 58:1,2). Can we call a bad parent, godly? He never teaches his child the way to heaven. He is like the ostrich which is cruel to her young (Job 39:16). Can we call a bad employer, godly? Many employers leave their religion at church (as the clerk does his book). They have nothing of God at home; their houses are not Bethels—but Bethavens—not little temples but little hells. How many employers at the last day must plead guilty at the bar. Though they have fed their servants' bellies, they have starved their souls. Can we call a bad child, godly? He stops his ear to his parents' counsel. You may as well call him who is disloyal--a good subject. Can we call a bad servant, godly? He is slothful and wilful; he is more ready to spy a fault in another than to correct it in himself. To call one who is bad in his relationships godly, is a contradiction; it is to call evil good (Isaiah 5:20).
Use 2: As we desire to have God approve of us, let us show godliness in our relationships. Not to be good in our relationships spoils all our other good things. Naaman was an honorable man—but he was a leper (2 Kings 5:1). That "but" spoiled everything. So such a person is a great hearer—but he neglects relative duties. This stains the beauty of all his other actions. As in printing, though the letter is ever so well shaped—yet if it is not set in the right place, it spoils the sense. So let a man have many things commendable in him—yet if he is not good in his right place, making conscience of how he walks in his relationships, he does harm to religion. There are many to whom Christ will say at last, as to the young man, "There is still one thing you lack" (Luke 18:22). You have misbehaved in your relative capacity. As therefore we cherish our salvation and the honor of true religion, let us shine in that orb of relationships where God has placed us.
18 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN DOES NOT INDULGE IN ANY SIN
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Though sin lives in him—yet he does not live in sin. A godly man may step into sin through infirmity—but he does not keep on that road. He prays, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139:23-24).
Question: What is it to indulge sin?
Answer 1: To give the breast to it and feed it. As a fond parent humors his child and lets him have what he wants, so to indulge sin is to humor sin.
Answer 2: To indulge sin is to commit it with delight. The ungodly "delight in wickedness" (2 Thes. 2:12).
In this sense, a godly man does not indulge sin. Though sin is in him, he is troubled at it and would gladly get rid of it. There is as much difference between sin in the wicked and sin in the godly—as between poison being in a serpent and poison being in a man. Poison in a serpent is in its natural place and is delightful—but poison in a man's body is harmful and he uses antidotes to expel it. So sin in a wicked man is delightful, being in its natural place—but sin in a child of God is burdensome and he uses all means to expel it. The sin is trimmed off. The will is against it. A godly man enters his protest against sin: "Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?" (Romans 7:24). A child of God, while he commits sin, hates the sin he commits (Romans 7).
In particular there are four kinds of sin, which a godly man will not allow himself:
SECRET sins. Some are more modest than to commit open gross sin. That would be a stain on their reputation. But they will sit brooding upon sin in a corner: "Saul secretly practiced mischief" (1 Sam. 23:9). All will not sin on a balcony—but perhaps they will sin behind the curtain. Rachel did not carry her father's images like a saddle cloth to be exposed to public view—but she put them under her and sat on them (Gen. 31:34). Many carry their sins secretly.
But a godly man dare not sin secretly:
(1) He knows that God sees in secret, "for he knows the secrets of every heart." (Psalm 44:21). As God cannot be deceived by our subtlety, so he cannot be excluded by our secrecy.
(2) A godly man knows that secret sins are in some sense worse than others. They reveal more guile and atheism. The curtain-sinner makes himself believe that God does not see: "Son of man, have you seen what the leaders of Israel are doing with their idols in dark rooms? They are saying—The Lord doesn't see us!" (Ezek. 8:12). Those who have bad eyes think that the sun is dim. How it provokes God, that men's atheism should give the lie to his omniscience! "He who formed the eye, shall he not see?" (Psalm 94:9).
(3) A godly man knows that secret sins shall not escape God's justice. A judge on the bench can punish no offence but what is proved by witnesses. He cannot punish the treason of the heart—but the sins of the heart are as visible to God as if they were written upon the forehead. As God will reward secret duties, so he will revenge secret sins.
GAINFUL sins. Gain is the golden bait, with which Satan fishes for souls! "The sweet smell of money." This was the last temptation he used with Christ: "All these things will I give you" (Matt. 4:9). But Christ saw the hook under the bait. Many who have escaped gross sins, are still caught in a golden net. To gain the world, they will use indirect routes.
A godly man dare not travel for riches along the devil's highway. Those are sad gains, which make a man lose peace of conscience and heaven at last. He who gets an estate by injustice stuffs his pillow with thorns, and his head will lie very uneasy when he comes to die. "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" Matthew 16:26.
A beloved BESETTING sin. "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1. There is usually one sin that is the favorite—the sin which the heart is most fond of. A beloved sin lies in a man's bosom as the disciple whom Jesus loved, leaned on his bosom (John 13:23). A godly man will not indulge a darling sin: "I kept myself from my iniquity" (Psalm 18:23). "I will not indulge the sin of my constitution, to which the bias of my heart more naturally inclines." "Fight neither with small nor great—but only with the king" (1 Kings 22:31). A godly man fights this king sin. The oracle of Apollo answered the people of Cyrha that if they would live in peace among themselves, they must make continual war with those strangers who were on their borders. If we would have peace in our souls, we must maintain a war against our favorite sin and never leave off until it is subdued.
Question: How shall we know what our beloved sin is?
Answer 1: The sin which a man does not love to have reproved is the darling sin. Herod could not endure having his incest spoken against. If the prophet meddles with that sin—it shall cost him his head! "Do not touch my Herodias!" Men can be content to have other sins reproved—but if the minister puts his finger on the sore, and touches this sin—their hearts begin to burn in malice against him!
Answer 2: The sin on which the thoughts run most, is the darling sin. Whichever way the thoughts go, the heart goes. He who is in love with a person cannot keep his thoughts off that person. Examine what sin runs most in your mind, what sin is first in your thoughts and greets you in the morning—that is your predominant sin.
Answer 3: The sin which has most power over us, and most easily leads us captive, is the one beloved by the soul. There are some sins which a man can better resist. If they come for entertainment, he can more easily put them off. But the bosom sin comes as a suitor, and he cannot deny it—but is overcome by it. The young man in the Gospel had repulsed many sins—but there was one sin which soiled him, and that was covetousness. Christians, mark what sin you are most readily led captive by—that is the harlot in your bosom! It is a sad thing that a man should be so bewitched by lust, that if it asks him to part with not only half the kingdom (Esther 7:2) but the whole kingdom of heaven, he must part with it, to gratify that lust!
Answer 4: The sin which men use arguments to defend, is the beloved sin. He who has a jewel in his bosom, will defend it to his death. So when there is any sin in the bosom, men will defend it. The sin we advocate and dispute for, is the besetting sin. If the sin is anger, we plead for it: "I do well to be angry" (Jonah 4:9). If the sin is covetousness and we vindicate it and perhaps wrest Scripture to justify it—that is the sin which lies nearest the heart.
Answer 5: The sin which most troubles us, and flies most in the face in an hour of sickness and distress, that is the Delilah sin! When Joseph's brethren were distressed, their sin in selling their brother came to remembrance: "We are truly guilty concerning our brother . . . therefore is this distress come upon us" (Gen. 42:21). So, when a man is on a sickbed and conscience says, "You have been guilty of such a sin; you went on in it, and rolled it like honey under your tongue!" Conscience is reading him a sad lecture. That was the beloved sin for sure.
Answer 6: The sin which a man finds most difficulty in giving up, is the endeared sin. Of all his sons, Jacob found most difficulty in parting with Benjamin. So the sinner says, "This and that sin I have parted with—but must Benjamin go, must I part with this delightful sin? That pierces my heart!" As with a castle that has several forts about it, the first and second fort are taken—but when it comes to the castle, the governor will rather fight and die than yield that. So a man may allow some of his sins to be demolished—but when it comes to one sin, that is the taking of the castle; he will never agree to part with that! That is the master sin for sure.
The besetting sin is a God-provoking sin. The wise men of Troy counseled Priam to send Helena back to the Greeks, not permitting himself to be abused any longer by the charms of her beauty, because keeping her within the city would lay the foundation of a fatal war. So we should put away our Delilah sin, lest it incense the God of heaven, and make him commence a war against us.
The besetting sin is, of all others, most dangerous. As Samson's strength lay in his hair, so the strength of sin, lies in this beloved sin. This is like a poison striking the heart, which brings death. A godly man will lay the axe of repentance to this sin and hew it down! He sets this sin, like Uriah, in the forefront of the battle, so that it may be slain. He will sacrifice this Isaac, he will pluck out this right eye, so that he may see better to go to heaven.
Those sins which the world counts LESSER. There is no such thing as little sin—yet some may be deemed less comparatively. But a godly man will not indulge himself in these. Such as:
(1) Sins of omission. Some think it no great matter to omit family, or private prayer. They can go for several months and God never hears from them. A godly man will as soon live without food, as without prayer. He knows that every creature of God is sanctified by prayer (1 Tim. 4:5). The bird may shame many Christians; it never takes a drop—but the eye is lifted up towards heaven.
(2) A godly man dares not allow himself vain, frothy discourse, much less that which looks like an oath. If God will judge for idle words, will he not much more for idle oaths?
(3) A godly man dare not allow himself rash censuring. Some think this a small matter. They will not swear—but they will slander. This is very evil. This is wounding a man in that which is dearest to him. He who is godly turns all his censures upon himself! He judges himself for his own sins—but is very watchful and concerned, about the good name of another.
Use: As you would be numbered among the genealogies of the saints, do not indulge yourselves in any sin. Consider the mischief which one sin lived in, will do:
One sin lived in, gives Satan as much advantage against you as more sins. The fowler can hold a bird by one wing. Satan held Judas fast by one sin.
One sin lived in, proves that the heart is not sound. He who hides one rebel in his house is a traitor to the crown. The person who indulges one sin is a traitorous hypocrite.
One sin lived in, will make way for more, as a little thief can open the door to more. Sins are linked and chained together. One sin will draw on more. David's adultery made way for murder. One sin never goes alone! If there is only one nest egg—the devil can brood on it.
One sin lived in, is as much a breach of God's law as more sins. "Whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all" (Jas. 2:10). The king may make a law against felony, treason and murder. If a man is guilty of only one of these, he is a transgressor.
One sin lived in, prevents Christ from entering. One stone in the pipe keeps out the water. One sin indulged in, obstructs the soul and keeps the streams of Christ's blood from running into it.
One sin lived in, will spoil all your good duties. A drop of poison will spoil a glass of wine. Abimelech, a bastard-son, destroyed seventy of his brethren (Judges 9:5). One bastard-sin will destroy seventy prayers. One dead fly will spoil the whole box of precious ointment.
One sin lived in will be a cankerworm to eat out the peace of conscience. It takes away the manna from the ark, and leaves only a rod. "Alas! What a scorpion lies within!" (Seneca). One sin is a pirate—to rob a Christian of his comfort. One jarring string puts all the music out of tune. One sin lived in—will spoil the music of conscience.
One sin lived in, will damn as well as more sins. One disease is enough to kill. If a fence is made ever so strong, and only one gap is left open; the wild beast may enter and tread down the corn. If only one sin is allowed in the soul, you leave open a gap for the devil to enter! A soldier may have only one gap in his armor--and the bullet may enter there. He may as well be shot there--as if he had no armor on at all. So if you favor only one sin, you leave a part of your soul unprotected--and the bullet of God's wrath may enter there—and shoot you! One sin lived in, may shut you out of heaven! What difference is there, between being shut out of heaven for one sin--or for many sins? One millstone will sink a man into the sea--as well as a hundred!
One sin harbored in the soul will unfit us for suffering. How soon an hour of trial may come. A man who has hurt his shoulder cannot carry a heavy burden, and a man who has any guilt in his conscience cannot carry the cross of Christ. Will he who cannot deny his lust for Christ—deny his life for Christ? One unmortified sin in the soul—will bring forth the bitter fruit of apostasy.
If, then, you would show yourselves godly, give a certificate of divorce to every sin. Kill the Goliath sin! "Let not sin reign" (Romans 6:12). In the original it is "Let not sin king it over you." Grace and sin may be together—but grace and the love of sin cannot. Therefore parley with sin no longer—but with the spear of mortification, spill the heart-blood of every sin! "For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live." Romans 8:13. "So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you." Colossians 3:5.
17 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN IS A LOVER OF THE SAINTS
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The best way to discern grace in oneself—is to love grace in others: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14). What is religion—but a knitting together of hearts? Faith knits us to God—and love knits us one to another. There is a twofold love to others:
A civil love. A godly man has a love of civility to all: "Abraham stood up, and bowed to the children of Heth" (Gen. 23:7). Though they were extraneous and not within the pale of the covenant—yet Abraham was affable to them. Grace sweetens and refines nature. "Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble" (1 Pet. 3:8). We are to have a love of civility to all:
(1) Because they are of the same clay, of the same lump and mold with ourselves and are a piece of God's intricate needlework.
(2) Because our sweet deportment towards them may be a means to win them over and put them in love with the ways of God. Morose, crude behavior, often alienates the hearts of others and hardens them most against holiness, whereas loving behavior is very obliging and may be like a loadstone to draw them to true religion.
A pious and a holy love. This, a godly man has chiefly for those who are "of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). The first was a love of courtesy, this of delight. Our love to the saints (says Augustine) should be more than to our natural relations, because the bond of the Spirit is closer than that of blood. This love to the saints which shows a man to be godly must have seven ingredients in it:
(1) Love to the saints must be SINCERE. "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue—but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). The honey that drops from the comb is pure; so love must be pure, without deceit. Many are like Naphtali: "He gives goodly words" (Gen. 49:21). Pretended love is like a painted fire, which has no heat in it. Some hide malice under a false veil of love. I have read of Antoninus the Emperor that where he made a show of friendship, he intended the most mischief.
(2) Love to the saints must be SPIRITUAL. We must love them because they are saints, not out of self-respect because they are affable or have been kind to us.
But we must love them from spiritual considerations, because of the good that is in them. We are to reverence their holiness, else it is a carnal love.
(3) Love to the saints must be EXTENSIVE. We must love all who bear God's image:
(a) We must love the saints, though they have many infirmities. A Christian in this life is like a good face full of freckles. You who cannot love another because of his imperfections, have never yet seen your own face in the mirror. Your brother's infirmities may make you pity him; his graces must make you love him.
(b) We must love the saints, though in some things they do not agree with us. Another Christian may differ from me in lesser matters, either because he has more light than I, or because he has less light. If he differs from me because he has more light, then I have no reason to censure him. If he differs from me because he has less light, then I ought to bear with him as the weaker vessel. In things of an indifferent nature, there ought to be Christian forbearance.
(c) We must love the saints, though their graces outvie and surpass ours. We ought to bless God for the eminence of another's grace, because hereby religion is honored. Pride is not quite slain in a believer. Saints themselves are apt to grudge and repine at each other's excellences. Is it not strange that the same person should hate one man for his sin and envy another for his virtue? Christians need to look to their hearts. Love is right and genuine, when we can rejoice in the graces of others though they seem to eclipse ours.
(4) Love to the saints must be APPRECIATING. We must esteem them above others: "He honors those who fear the Lord" (Psalm 15:4). We are to look upon the wicked as chaff—but upon the saints as jewels. These must be had in high veneration.
(5) Love to the saints must be SOCIAL. We should delight in their company: "I am a companion of all those who fear you" (Psalm 119:63). It is a kind of hell to be in the company of the wicked, where we cannot choose but hear God's name dishonored. It was a capital crime to carry the image of Tiberius, engraved on a ring or coin, into any sordid place. Those who have the image of God engraved on them should not go into any sinful, sordid company. I have only ever read of two living people who desired to keep company with the dead, and they were possessed by the devil (Matt. 8:28). What comfort can a living Christian have from conversing with the dead (Jude 12)? But the society of saints is desirable. This is not to walk "among the tombs"—but "among beds of spices." Believers are Christ's garden; their graces are the flowers; their savory discourse is the fragrant scent of these flowers.
(6) Love to the saints must be DEMONSTRATIVE. We should be ready to do all offices of love to them, vindicate their names, contribute to their necessities and, like the good Samaritan, pour oil and wine into their wounds (Luke 10:34,35). Love cannot be concealed—but is active in its sphere and will lay itself out for the good of others.
(7) Love to the saints must be CONSTANT. "He who dwells in love" (1 John 4:16). Our love must not only lodge for a night—but we must dwell in love: "Let brotherly love continue" (Heb. 13:1). As love must be sincere, without hypocrisy; so it must be constant, without deficiency. Love must be like the pulse, always beating, not like those Galatians who at one time were ready to pluck out their eyes for Paul (Gal. 4:15) and afterwards were ready to pluck out his eyes. Love should expire only with our life. And surely if our love to the saints is thus divinely qualified, we may hopefully conclude that we are enrolled among the godly. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples—if you have love one to another" (John 13:35).
What induces a godly man to love the saints is the fact that he is closely related to them. There ought to be love among relations; there is a spiritual kinship among believers. They all have one head, therefore should all have one heart. They are stones of the same building (1 Pet. 2:5), and shall not these stones be cemented together with love?
Use 1: If it is the distinguishing mark of a godly man to be a lover of the saints, then how sad it is to see this grace of love in eclipse! This characteristic of godliness is almost blotted out among Christians. England was once a fair garden where the flower of love grew—but surely now this flower is either plucked, or withered. Where is that amity and unity which there should be among Christians? I appeal to you—would there be that censuring and despising, that reproaching and undermining one another—if there were love? Instead of bitter tears, there are bitter spirits. It is a sign that iniquity abounds when the love of many grows cold. There is that distance among some professing Christians as if they had not received the same Spirit, or as if they did not hope for the same heaven. In primitive times there was so much love among the godly—that it set the heathen wondering; and now there is so little love—that it may set Christians blushing.
Use 2: As we would be written down for saints in God's calendar, let us love the brotherhood (1 Pet. 2:17). Those who shall one day live together, should love together. What is it that makes a disciple, but love (John 13:35)? The devil has knowledge—but that which makes him a devil is that he lacks love. To persuade Christians to love, consider:
(1) The saints have that in them which may make us love them. They are the intricate embroidery and workmanship of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:10). They have those rare lineaments of grace that none but a pencil from heaven could draw. Their eyes sparkle forth beauty, "their breasts are like clusters of grapes" (Song 7:7). This makes Christ himself delight in his spouse: "The king is held in the galleries" (Song 7:5). The church is the daughter of a prince (Song 7:1). She is waited on by angels (Heb 1:14). She has a palace of glory reserved for her (John 14:2), and may not all this draw forth our love?
(2) Consider how evil it is for saints not to love:
(a) It is UNNATURAL. The saints are Christ's lambs (John 21:15). For a dog to worry a lamb is usual—but for one lamb to worry another is unnatural. The saints are brethren (1 Peter 3:8). How barbarous it is for brethren not to love!
(b) Not to love is a FOOLISH thing. Have not God's people enemies enough, that they should fly in the faces of one another? The wicked confederate against the godly: "They have taken crafty counsel against your people" (Psalm 83:3). Though there may be a private grudge between such as are wicked—yet they will all agree and unite against the saints. If two greyhounds are snarling at a bone and you put a hare between them, they will leave the bone and chase the hare. So if wicked men have private differences among themselves, and the godly are near them, they will leave snarling at one another and chase the godly. Now, when God's people have so many enemies abroad, who watch for their halting and are glad when they can do them a mischief, shall the saints fall out and divide into parties among themselves?
(3) Not to love is very UNSEASONABLE. God's people are in a common calamity. They all suffer in the cause of the gospel, and for them to disagree is altogether unseasonable. Why does the Lord bring his people together in affliction, except to bring them together in affection? Metals will unite in a furnace. If ever Christians unite, it should be in the furnace of affliction. Chrysostom compares affliction to a shepherd's dog, which makes all the sheep run together. God's rod has this loud voice in it: "Love one another." How unworthy it is when Christians are suffering together, to be then striving together.
(4) Not to love is very SINFUL.
(a) For saints not to love, is to live in contradiction to Scripture. The apostle is continually plucking this string of love, as if it made the sweetest music in religion: "This commandment have we from him, That he who loves God love his brother also" (1 John 4:21). (See also Romans 13:8; Col. 3:14; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11). Not to love is to walk contrary to the Word. Can he who goes against the rules of medicine, be a good physician? Can he who goes against the rules of piety, be a good Christian?
(b) Lack of love among Christians greatly silences the spirit of prayer. Hot passions make cold prayers. Where animosities and contentions prevail, instead of praying for one another, Christians will be ready to pray against one another, like the disciples who prayed for fire from heaven on the Samaritans (Luke 9:54). And will God, do you think, hear such prayers as come from a wrathful heart? Will he eat our leavened bread? Will he accept those duties which are soured with bitterness of spirit? Shall that prayer which is offered with the strange fire of our sinful passions, ever go up as incense?
(c) These heart-burnings hinder the progress of piety in our own souls. The flower of grace will not grow in a wrathful heart. The body may as soon thrive, while it has the plague—as a soul can thrive, which is infected with malice. While Christians are debating, grace is abating. As the spleen grows, health decays. As hatred increases, holiness declines.
(5) Not to love is very FATAL. The differences among God's people portend ruin. All mischiefs come in at this gap of division (Matt. 12:25). Animosities among saints may make God leave his temple: "the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood upon the threshold" (Ezek. 10:4). Does not God seem to stand upon the threshold of his house, as if he were taking wings to fly? And woe to us if God departs from us (Hos. 9:12)! If the master leaves the ship, it is nearly sinking indeed. If God leaves a land, it must of necessity sink in ruin.
Question: How shall we attain this excellent grace of love?
Answer 1: Beware of the devil's couriers—I mean such as run on his errand, and make it their work to blow the coals of contention among Christians, and render one party odious to another.
Answer 2: Keep up friendly meetings. Christians should not be shy of one another, as if they had the plague.
Answer 3: Let us plead that promise: "I will give them one heart, and one way" (Jer. 32:39). Let us pray that there may be no contests among Christians, except as to who shall love most. Let us pray that God will divide Babylon—and unite Zion.
Use 3: Is it a mark of a godly man to love the saints? Then those who hate the saints must stand indicted as ungodly. The wicked have an implacable malice against God's people, and how can antipathies be reconciled? To hate the holy children of God, is a brand of the reprobate. Those who malign the godly, are the curse of creation. If all the scalding drops from God's vial will make them miserable—they shall be so! Never did any who were the haters and persecutors of saints thrive at that trade. What became of Julian, Diocletian, Maximinus, Valerian, Cardinal Crescentius and others? They are standing monuments of God's vengeance! "Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. " (Psalm 34:21).
16 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN IS A THANKFUL MAN
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Praise and thanksgiving is the work of heaven; and he begins that work here which he will always be doing in heaven. The Hebrew word for "praise" comes from a root that signifies "to shoot up." The godly man sends up his praises like a volley of shots towards heaven. David was modeled after God's heart and how melodiously he warbled out God's praises! Therefore he was called "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Sam. 23:1). Take a Christian at his worst—yet he is thankful. The prophet Jonah was a man of waspish spirit. The sea was not so stirred with the tempest, as Jonah's heart was stirred with passion (Jonah 1:13). Yet through this cloud you might see grace appear. He had a thankful heart: "I will sacrifice unto you with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed" (Jonah 2:9). To illustrate this more clearly, I shall lay down these four particulars:
Praise and thanksgiving is a saint-like work
We find in Scripture that the godly are still called upon to praise God: "Praise the Lord; you who fear him, praise the Lord" (Psalm 135:20). "Let the saints be joyful in glory: let the high praises of God be in their mouth" (Psalm 149:5,6). Praise is a work proper to a saint:
(1) None but the godly can praise God aright. As all do not have the skill to play the lute, so not everyone can sound forth the harmonious praises of God. Wicked men are bound to praise God—but they are not fit to praise him. None but a living Christian can tune God's praise. Wicked men are dead in sin; how can they who are dead, lift up God's praises? "The grave cannot praise you" (Isaiah 38:18). A wicked man stains and eclipses God's praise. If a filthy hand works in satin, it will slur its beauty. God will say to the sinner, "What have you to do, to take my covenant in your mouth?" (Psalm 50:16).
(2) Praise is not lovely, for any but the godly: "praise is lovely for the upright" (Psalm 33:1). A profane man with God's praises is like a dunghill with flowers. Praise in the mouth of a sinner, is like a proverb in the mouth of a fool. How unfitting it is for anyone to praise God—if his whole life dishonors God! It is as indecent for a wicked man to praise God, as it is for a thief to talk of living by faith, or for the devil to quote Scripture. The godly alone are fit to be choristers in God's praises. It is called "the garment of praise" (Isaiah 61:3). This garment fits handsomely only on a saint's back.
Thanksgiving is a more noble part of God's worship
Our needs may send us to prayer, but it takes a truly honest heart to praise God. The raven cries; the lark sings. In petition we act like men; in thanksgiving we act like angels.
Thanksgiving is a God-exalting work
"Whoever offers praise glorifies me" (Psalm 50:23). Though nothing can add the least mite to God's essential glory—yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. Praise is a setting forth of God's honor, a lifting up of his name, a displaying of the trophy of his goodness, a proclaiming of his excellence, a spreading of his renown, a breaking open of the box of ointment, whereby the sweet fragrance of God's name is sent abroad into the world.
Praise is a more distinguishing work
By this a Christian excels all the infernal spirits. Do you talk of God? So can the devil; he brought Scripture to Christ. Do you profess religion? So can the devil; he transforms himself into an angel of light. Do you fast? He never eats. Do you believe? The devils have a faith of assent; they believe, and tremble (Jas. 2:19). But as Moses worked such a miracle as none of the magicians could reproduce, so here is a work Christians may be doing, which none of the devils can do—and that is the work of thanksgiving. The devils blaspheme—but do not bless. Satan has his fiery darts but not his harp and violin.
Use 1: See here the true genius and characteristic of a godly man. He is much in doxologies and praises. It is a saying of Lactantius that he who is unthankful to his God cannot be a godly man. A godly man is a God-exalter. The saints are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). Where should God's praises be sounded—but in his temples? A good heart is never weary of praising God: "his praise shall continually be in my mouth" (Psalm 34:1). Some will be thankful while the memory of the mercy is fresh—but afterwards leave off. The Carthaginians at first to send the tenth of their yearly revenue to Hercules—but by degrees they grew weary and stopped sending. David, as long as he drew his breath, would chirp forth God's praise: "I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being" (Psalm146:2). David would not now and then give God a snatch of music, and then hang up the instrument—but he would continually be celebrating God's praise.
A godly man will express his thankfulness in every duty. He mingles thanksgiving with prayer: "in everything by prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6). Thanksgiving is the more divine part of prayer. In our petitions we express our own necessities; in our thanksgivings we declare God's excellences. Prayer goes up as incense, when it is perfumed with thanksgiving.
And as a godly man expresses thankfulness in every duty, he does so in every condition. He will be thankful in adversity as well as prosperity: "In everything give thanks" (1 Thes. 5:18). A gracious soul is thankful and rejoices that he is drawn nearer to God, though it be by the cords of affliction. When it goes well with him, he praises God's mercy; when it goes badly with him, he magnifies God's justice. When God has a rod in his hand, a godly man will have a psalm in his mouth. The devil's smiting of Job was like striking a musical instrument; he sounded forth praise: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21). When God's spiritual plants are cut and bleed, they drop thankfulness; the saints' tears cannot drown their praises.
If this is the sign of a godly man, then the number of the godly appears to be very small. Few are in the work of praise. Sinners cut God short of his thank offering: "Where are the nine?" (Luke 17:17). Of ten lepers healed there was but one who returned to give praise. Most of the world are sepulchers to bury God's praise. You will hear some swearing and cursing—but few who bless God. Praise is the rent which men owe to God—but most are behindhand with their rent. God gave King Hezekiah a marvelous deliverance, "but Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him" (2 Chron. 32:25). That "but" was a blot on his escutcheon.
Some, instead of being thankful to God, "render evil for good." They are the worse for mercy: "Do you thus requite the Lord, O foolish and unwise people?" (Deut. 32:6). This is like the toad which turns the most wholesome herb to poison. Where shall we find a grateful Christian? We read of the saints "having harps in their hands" (Rev 5:8)—the emblem of praise. Many have tears in their eyes and complaints in their mouths—but few have harps in their hand and are blessing and praising the name of God.
Use 2: Let us scrutinize ourselves and examine by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we thankful for mercy? It is a hard thing to be thankful.
Question: How may we know whether we are rightly thankful?
Answer 1: We are rightly thankful—when we are careful to register God's mercies: "David appointed certain of the Levites to record, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel" (1 Chron. 16:4). Physicians say that the memory is the first thing which decays. It is true in spiritual matters: "They soon forgot his works" (Psalm 106:13). A godly man enters his mercies, as a physician does his remedies, in a book, so that they may not be lost. Mercies are jewels that should be locked up. A child of God keeps two books always by him: one to write his sins in—so that he may be humble; the other to write his mercies in—so that he may be thankful.
Answer 2: We are rightly thankful—when our hearts are the chief instrument in the music of praise: "I will praise the Lord with my whole heart" (Psalm 111:1). David would tune not only his violin—but also his heart. If the heart does not join with the tongue, there can be no true praise. Where the heart is not engaged, the parrot is as good a chorister as the Christian.
Answer 3: We are rightly thankful—when the favors which we receive, endear our love to God the more. David's miraculous preservation from death drew forth his love to God: "I love the Lord" (Psalm 116:1). It is one thing to love our mercies; it is another thing to love the Lord. Many love their deliverance, but not their deliverer. God is to be loved more than his mercies.
Answer 4: We are rightly thankful when, in giving our praise to God, we see no worthiness from ourselves: "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies you have showed unto your servant" (Gen. 32:10). As if Jacob had said, "Lord, the worst bit you carve for me, is better than I deserve." Mephibosheth bowed himself and said, "What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I am?" (2 Sam. 9:8). So when a thankful Christian makes a survey of his blessings and sees how much he enjoys, that others better than he lack, he says, "Lord, what am I, a dead dog, that free grace should look upon me, and that you should crown me with such loving kindness!"
Answer 5: We are rightly thankful—when we put God's mercy to good use. We repay God's blessings—with service. The Lord gives us health—and we spend and are spent for Christ (2 Cor. 12:15). He gives us an estate—and we honor the Lord with our substance (Proverbs 3:9). He gives us children—and we dedicate them to God and educate them for God. We do not bury our talents—but use them for God's glory. This is to put our mercies to good use. A gracious heart is like a piece of good ground that, having received the seed of mercy, produces a crop of obedience.
Answer 6: We are rightly thankful—when we can have our hearts more enlarged for spiritual mercies—than for temporal mercies: "Blessed be God, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings" (Eph. 1:3). A godly man blesses God more for a fruitful heart—than a full crop. He is more thankful for Christ—than for a kingdom. Socrates was accustomed to say that he loved the king's smile—more than his gold. A pious heart is more thankful for a smile of God's face—than he would be for all the gold of the Indies.
Answer 7: We are rightly thankful—when mercy is a spur to duty. It causes a spirit of activity for God. Mercy is not like the sun to the fire, to dull it—but like oil to the wheel, to make it run faster. David wisely argues from mercy to duty: "You have delivered my soul from death. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 116:8,9). It was a saying of Bernard, "Lord, I have two mites, a soul and a body, and I give them both to you."
Answer 8: We are rightly thankful—when we motivate others to this angelic work of praise. David does not only wish to bless God himself—but calls upon others to do so: "Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples." (Psalm 117:1). The sweetest music is that which is in unison. When many saints join together in unison, then they make heaven ring with their praises. As one drunkard will be calling upon another—so in a holy sense, one Christian must be stirring up another to the work of thankfulness.
Answer 9: We are rightly thankful—when we not only speak God's praise—but live his praise. It is called an expression of gratitude. We give thanks when we live thanks. Such as are mirrors of mercy should be patterns of piety. "Upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness" (Obad. 17). To give God oral praise and dishonor him in our lives, is to commit a barbarism in religion, and is to be like those Jews who bowed the knee to Christ and then spit on him (Mark 15:19).
Answer 10: We are rightly thankful—when we propagate God's praises to posterity. We tell our children what God has done for us: in such a need he supplied us; from such a sickness he raised us up; in such a temptation he helped us. "O God, our fathers have told us, what work you did in their days, in the times of old" (Psalm 44:1). By transmitting our experiences to our children, God's name is eternalized, and his mercies will bring forth a plentiful crop of praise when we are gone. Heman puts the question, "shall the dead praise you?" (Psalm 88:10). Yes, in the sense that when we are dead, we praise God because, having left the chronicle of God's mercies with our children, we start them on thankfulness and so make God's praises live when we are dead.
Use 3: Let us prove our godliness by gratefulness: "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name" (Psalm 29:2).
It is a good thing to be thankful. "It is good to sing praises unto our God" (Psalm 147:1). It is bad when the tongue (that organ of praise) is out of tune and jars by murmuring and discontent. But it is a good thing to be thankful. It is good, because this is all the creature can do to lift up God's name; and it is good because it tends to make us good. The more thankful we are, the more holy. While we pay this tribute of praise, our stock of grace increases. In other debts, the more we pay, the less we have; but the more we pay this debt of thankfulness, the more grace we have.
Thankfulness is the rent we owe to God. "Kings of the earth, and all people; let them praise the name of the Lord" (Psalm 148:11,13), Praise is the tribute or custom to be paid into the King of heaven's treasury. Surely while God renews our lease, we must renew our rent.
The great cause we have to be thankful. It is a principle grafted in nature—to be thankful for mercies received. Even the heathen praised Jupiter for their victories.
What full clusters of mercies hang on us when we go to enumerate God's mercies! We must, with David, confess ourselves to be bewildered: "Many, O Lord my God, are your wonderful works which you have done, they cannot be reckoned up in order" (Psalm 40:5). And as God's mercies are past numbering, so they are past measuring. David takes the longest measuring line he could get. He measures from earth to the clouds, no, above the clouds—yet this measure would not reach the heights of God's mercies: "Your mercy is great above the heavens" (Psalm 108:4). Oh, how God has enriched us with his silver showers! A whole constellation of mercies has shone in our hemisphere.
(1) What temporal favors we have received! Every day we see a new tide of mercy coming in. The wings of mercy have covered us; the breast of mercy has fed us: "the God who fed me all my life long unto this day" (Gen. 48:15). What snares laid for us have been broken! What fears have blown over! The Lord has made our bed, while he has made others' graves. He has taken such care of us, as if he had no one else to take care of. Never was the cloud of providence so black—but we might see a rainbow of love in the cloud. We have been made to swim in a sea of mercy! Does not all this call for thankfulness?
(2) That which may put another string into the instrument of our praise and make it sound louder—is to consider what spiritual blessings God has conferred on us. He has given us water from the upper springs; he has opened the wardrobe of heaven and fetched us out a better garment than any of the angels wear! He has given us the best robe, and put on us the ring of faith, by which we are married to him. These are mercies of the first magnitude, which deserve to have an asterisk put on them. More—God keeps the best wine until last! Here on earth, he gives us mercies only in small quantities; the greatest things are laid up in heaven! Here on earth, there are some honey drops and foretastes of God's love; the rivers of pleasure are reserved for paradise! Well may we take the harp and violin and triumph in God's praise. Who can tread on these hot coals of God's love—and his heart not burn in thankfulness!
Thankfulness is the best policy. There is nothing lost by it. To be thankful for one mercy is the way to have more. It is like pouring water into a pump which fetches out more. Musicians love to sound their trumpets where there is the best echo, and God loves to bestow his mercies where there is the best echo of thankfulness.
Thankfulness is a frame of heart that God delights in. If repentance is the joy of heaven, praise is the music. Bernard calls thankfulness, "the sweet balm that drops from a Christian."
Four sacrifices God is very pleased with: the sacrifice of Christ's blood; the sacrifice of a broken heart; the sacrifice of alms; and the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Praise and thanksgiving (says Greenham) is the most excellent part of God's worship, for this shall continue in the heavenly choir when all other exercises of religion have ceased.
What a horrid thing ingratitude is! It gives a dye and tincture to every other sin and makes it crimson. Ingratitude is the spirit of baseness: "Your trusted friends will set traps for you" (Obad. 7). Ingratitude is worse than brutish (Isaiah 1:3). It is reported of Julius Caesar that he would never forgive an ungrateful person. Though God is a sin-pardoning God, he scarcely knows how to pardon for this. "How shall I pardon you for this? your children have forsaken me, when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery" (Jer. 5:7). Draco (whose laws were written in blood) published an edict that if any man had received a benefit from another, and it could be proved against him that he had not been grateful for it, he should be put to death. An unthankful person is a monster in nature—and a paradox in Christianity. He is the scorn of heaven and the plague of earth. An ungrateful man never does well, except in one thing—that is, when he dies. Then he becomes a monument of God's justice.
Not being thankful is the cause of all the judgments which have lain on us. Our unthankfulness for health has been the cause of so much mortality. Our gospel unthankfulness and sermon-surfeiting has been the reason why God has put so many lights under a bushel. Who will spend money on a piece of ground that produces nothing but briars? Unthankfulness stops up the golden vial of God's bounty, so that it will not drop.
Question: What shall we do to be thankful?
Answer 1: If you wish to be thankful, get a heart deeply humbled with the sense of your own vileness. A broken heart is the best pipe to sound forth God's praise. He who studies his sins wonders that he has anything and that God should shine on such a dunghill: "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, but I was shown mercy" (1 Tim. 1:13). How thankful Paul was! How he trumpeted forth free grace! A proud man will never be thankful. He looks on all his mercies as either of his own procuring or deserving. If he has an estate, this he has got by his wits and industry, not considering that scripture, "Always remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you power to become rich" (Deut. 8:18). Pride stops the current of gratitude. O Christian, think of your unworthiness; see yourself as the least of saints, and the chief of sinners—and then you will be thankful.
Answer 2: Strive for sound evidences of God's love to you. Read God's love in the impress of holiness upon your hearts. God's love poured in will make the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness: "Unto him that loved us, be glory and dominion forever!" (Rev. 1:5,6). The deepest springs yield the sweetest water. Hearts deeply aware of God's love yield the sweetest praises
15 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN IS A PATIENT MAN
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"You have heard of the patience of Job" (Jas. 5:11). Patience is a star which shines in a dark night. There is a twofold patience:
Patience in waiting
If a godly man does not obtain his desire immediately, he will wait until the mercy is ripe: "My soul waits for the Lord" (Psalm 130:6). There is good reason why God should have the timing of our mercies: "I, the Lord, will bring it all to pass at the right time" (Isaiah 60:22). Deliverance may delay beyond our time—but it will not delay beyond God's time.
Why should we not wait patiently for God? We are servants; it becomes servants to be in a waiting posture. We wait for everything else; we wait for the seed until it grows (Jas. 5:7). Why can we not wait for God? God has waited for us (Isaiah 30:18). Did he not wait for our repentance? How often did he come, year after year, before he found fruit? Did God wait for us, and can we not wait for him? A godly man is content to await God's leisure; though the vision is delayed, he will wait for it (Hab. 2:3).
Patience in bearing trials
This patience is twofold:
(a) Patience in regard to man—when we bear injuries without revenging.
(b) Patience in regard to God—when we bear his hand without repining. A good man will not only do God's will—but bear his will: "I will bear the indignation of the Lord" (Mic. 7:9). This patient bearing of God's will is not:
(1) A stoical apathy; patience is not insensitivity under God's hand; we ought to be sensitive.
(2) Enforced patience, to bear a thing because we cannot help it, which (as Erasmus said) is rather necessity than patience. But patience is a cheerful submission of our will to God. "May the will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14). A godly man acquiesces in what God does, as being not only good, but best for himself. The great quarrel between God and us is, "Whose will shall stand?" Now the regenerate will falls in with the will of God. There are four things which are opposite to this patient frame of soul:
(a) Disquiet of spirit, when the soul is discomposed and pulled off the hinges, insomuch that it is unfit for holy duties. When the strings of a lute are snarled up, the lute is not fit to make music. So when a Christian's spirit is perplexed and disturbed, he cannot make melody in his heart to the Lord.
(b) Discontent, which is a sullen, dogged mood. When a man is not angry at his sins—but at his condition, this is different from patience. Discontent is the daughter of pride.
(c) Defection, which is a dislike of God and his ways, and a falling off from religion. Sinners have hard thoughts of God, and if he just touches them on a sore spot, they will at once go away from him and throw off his livery.
(d) Self-vindication, when instead of being humbled under God's hand, a man justifies himself, as if he had not deserved what he suffers. A proud sinner stands upon his own defense, and is ready to accuse God of unrighteousness, which is as if we should accuse the sun with darkness. This is far from patience. A godly man subscribes to God's wisdom, and submits to his will. He says not only, "Good is the word of the Lord" (Isaiah 39:8)—but "Good is the rod of the Lord!"
Use: As we would demonstrate ourselves to be godly, let us be eminent in this grace of patience: "the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit" (Eccles. 7:8). There are some graces which we shall have no need of in heaven. We shall have no need of faith when we have full vision, nor patience when we have perfect joy—but in a dark sorrowful night there is need of these stars to shine (Heb. 10: 36). Let us show our patience in bearing God's will. Patience in bearing God's will is twofold:
When God removes any comfort from us.
When God imposes any trouble on us.
We must be patient when God removes any comfort from us. If God takes away any of our relations—"I take away the desire of your eyes with a stroke" (Ezek. 24:16)—it is still our duty patiently to acquiesce in the will of God. The loss of a dear relation is like pulling away a limb from the body. "A man dies every time he loses his own kith and kin." But grace will make our hearts calm and quiet, and produce holy patience in us under such a severe dispensation. I shall lay down eight considerations which may act like spiritual medicine to kill the worm of impatience under the loss of relations:
(1) The Lord never takes away any comfort from his people, without giving them something better. The disciples parted with Christ's physical presence, and he sent them the Holy Spirit. God eclipses one joy, and augments another. He simply makes an exchange; he takes away a flower, and gives a diamond.
(2) When godly friends die, they are in a better condition. They are taken away "from the evil to come" (Isaiah 57:1). They are out of the storm, and have gone to the haven! "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" (Rev. 14:13). The godly have a portion promised them upon their marriage to Christ—but the portion is not paid until the day of their death. The saints are promoted at death to communion with God; they have what they so long hoped for, and prayed for. Why, then, should we be impatient at our friends' promotion?
(3) You who are a saint, have a friend in heaven whom you cannot lose. The Jews have a saying at their funerals, "Let your consolation be in heaven." Are you mourning somebody close to you? Look up to heaven and draw comfort from there; your best kindred are above. "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up" (Psalm 27:10). God will be with you in the hour of death: "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me" (Psalm 23:4). Other friends, you cannot keep. God is a friend you cannot lose. He will be your guide in life; your hope in death; your reward after death!
(4) Perhaps God is correcting you for a fault, and if so, it befits you to be patient. It may be your friend had more of your love than God did, and therefore God took away such a relation, so that the stream of your love might run back to him again. A gracious woman had been deprived, first of her children, then of her husband. She said, "Lord, you intend to have all my love." God does not like to have any creature set upon the throne of our affections; he will take away that comfort, and then he shall lie nearest our heart. If a husband bestows a jewel on his wife, and she so falls in love with that jewel as to forget her husband, he will take away the jewel so that her love may return to him again. A dear relation is this jewel. If we begin to idolize it, God will take away the jewel, so that our love may return to him again.
(5) A godly relation is parted with—but not lost. That is lost, which we have no hope ever of seeing again. Pious friends have only gone a little ahead of us. A time will shortly come when there shall be a meeting without parting (1 Thes. 5:10). How glad one is to see a long-absent friend! Oh, what glorious joy there will be, when old relations meet together in heaven, and are in each other's embraces! When a great prince lands at the shore, the guns go off in token of joy; when godly friends have all landed at the heavenly shore and congratulate one another on their happiness, what stupendous joy there will be! What music in the choir of angels! How heaven will ring with their praises! And that which is the crown of all, those who were joined in the flesh here on earth, shall be joined nearer than ever in the mystic body, and shall lie together in Christ's bosom, that bed of perfume (1 Thes. 4:17).
(6) We have deserved worse at God's hand. Has he taken away a child, a wife, a parent? He might have taken away his Spirit. Has he deprived us of a relation? He might have deprived us of salvation. Does he put wormwood in the cup? We have deserved poison. "You have punished us less than our iniquities deserve" (Ezra 9:13). We have a sea of sin—but only a drop of suffering.
(7) The patient soul enjoys itself most sweetly. An impatient man is like a troubled sea which cannot rest (Isaiah 57:20). He tortures himself upon the rack of his own griefs and passions. Whereas patience calms the heart, as Christ did the sea, when it was rough. Now there is a sabbath in the heart, yes, a heaven. "In your patience possess your souls" (Luke 21:19). By faith a man possesses God, and by patience he possesses himself.
(8) How patient many of the saints have been, when the Lord has broken the very staff of their comfort in bereaving them of relations. The Lord took away Job's children and he was so far from murmuring that he fell to blessing: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (Job 1:21). God foretold the death of Eli's sons: "in one day both of them shall die," (1 Sam. 2:34). But how patiently he took this sad news: "It is the Lord's will. Let him do what he thinks best." (1 Sam. 3:18). See the difference between Eli and Pharaoh! Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord?" (Exod. 5:2). Eli said, "It is the Lord." When God struck two of Aaron's sons dead, "Aaron held his peace" (Lev. 10:2,3). Patience opens the ear—but shuts the mouth! It opens the ear to hear the rod—but shuts the mouth so that it has not a word to say against God. See here the patterns of patience; and shall we not copy them? These are heart-quietening considerations when God sets a death's-head upon our comforts and removes dear relations from us.
We must be patient when God inflicts any TROUBLE on us. "Patient in tribulation" (Romans 12:12).
(1) God sometimes lays heavy affliction on his people: "Your arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me." (Psalm 38:2). The Hebrew word for "afflicted" signifies "to be melted." God seems to melt his people in a furnace.
(2) God sometimes lays various afflictions on the saints: "he multiplies my wounds" (Job 9:17). As we have various ways of sinning, so the Lord has various ways of afflicting. Some he deprives of their estates; others he chains to a sick bed; others he confines to a prison. God has various arrows in his quiver, which he shoots.
(3) Sometimes God lets the affliction lie for a long time: "None of us knows how long this will last" (Psalm 74:9). As it is with diseases—some are chronic and linger and hang about the body several years—so it is with afflictions. The Lord is pleased to exercise many of his precious ones with chronic afflictions, which they suffer for a long time. Now in all these cases, it befits the saints to rest patiently in the will of God. The Greek word for "patient" is a metaphor and alludes to one who stands invincibly under a heavy burden. This is the right notion of patience, when we bear affliction invincibly without fainting or fretting.
The test of a pilot is seen in a storm; so the test of a Christian is seen in affliction. That man has the right art of navigation who, when the boisterous winds blow from heaven, steers the ship of his soul wisely, and does not dash upon the rock of impatience. A Christian should always maintain decorum, not behaving himself in an unseemly manner or acting with intemperate passion when the hand of God lies upon him. Patience adorns suffering. Affliction in Scripture is compared to a net: "You brought us into the net" (Psalm 66:11). Some have escaped the devil's net—yet the Lord allows them to be taken in the net of affliction. But they must not be "as a wild bull in a net" (Isaiah 51:20), kicking and flinging against their Maker—but lie patiently until God breaks the net and makes a way for their escape. I shall propound four potent arguments to encourage patience under those troubles which God inflicts on us:
(a) Afflictions are for our profit, for our benefit: "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." (Heb. 12:10). We pray that God would take such a course with us as may do our souls good. When God is afflicting us, he is hearing our prayers; he does it "for our good." Not that afflictions in themselves profit us—but as God's Spirit works with them. For as the waters of Bethesda could not give health of themselves, unless the angel descended and stirred them (John 5:4), so the waters of affliction are not in themselves healing until God's Spirit co-operates and sanctifies them to us. Afflictions are profitable in many ways:
(1) They make men sober and wise. Physicians have mental patients bound in chains and put on a frugal diet to bring them to the use of reason. Many run stark mad in prosperity; they know neither God nor themselves. The Lord therefore binds them with cords of affliction, so that he may bring them to their right minds. "If they are held in cords of affliction, then he shows them their transgressions. He opens also their ear to discipline" (Job 36:8-10).
(2) Afflictions are a friend to grace:
(A) They beget grace. Beza acknowledged that God laid the foundation of his conversion, during a violent sickness in Paris.
(B) They augment grace. The people of God are indebted to their troubles; they would never have had so much grace, if they had not met with such severe trials. Now the waters run, and the spices flow forth. The saints thrive by affliction as the Lacedemonians grew rich by war. God makes grace flourish most in the fall of the leaf.
(3) Afflictions quicken our pace on the way to heaven. It is with us as with children sent on an errand. If they meet with apples or flowers by the way, they linger and are in no great hurry to get home—but if anything frightens them, then they run with all the speed they can, to their father's house. So in prosperity, we gather the apples and flowers and do not give much thought to heaven—but if troubles begin to arise and the times grow frightful, then we make more haste to heaven and with David "run the way of God's commandments" (Psalm 119:32).
(b) God intermixes mercy with affliction. He steeps his sword of justice in the oil of mercy. There was no night so dark but Israel had a pillar of fire in it. There is no condition so dismal but we may see a pillar of fire to give us light. If the body is in pain, and conscience is at peace—there is mercy. Affliction is for the prevention of sin; there is mercy. In the ark there was "a rod and a pot of manna", the emblem of a Christian's condition: "mercy interlined with judgment" (Psalm 101:1). Here is the rod and manna.
(c) Patience proves that there is much of God in the heart. Patience is one of God's titles: "the God of patience" (Romans 15:5). If you have your heart cast in this blessed mold, it is a sign that God has imparted much of his own nature to you; you shine with some of his beams.
Impatience proves that there is much unsoundness of heart. If the body is of such a type that every little scratch of a pin makes the flesh fester, you say, "Surely this man's flesh is very unsound." So impatience with every petty annoyance, and quarreling with providence—is the sign of a disturbed Christian. If there is any grace in such a heart, they who can see it must have good eyes. But he who is of a patient spirit is a graduate in religion, and participates in much of the divine nature.
(d) The end of affliction is glorious. The Jews were captive in Babylon, but what was the end? They departed from Babylon with vessels of silver, gold and precious things (Ezra 1:6). So, what is the end of affliction? It ends in endless glory (Acts 14:22; 2 Cor. 4:17). How this may rock our impatient hearts quiet! Who would not willingly travel along a little dirty path—at the end of which is a priceless inheritance!
Question: How shall I get my heart tuned to a patient mood?
Answer: Get faith; all our impatience proceeds from unbelief. Faith is the breeder of patience. When a storm of passion begins to arise, faith says to the heart, as Christ did to the sea, "Peace, be still", and there is at once a calm.
Question: How does faith work patience?
Answer: Faith argues the soul into patience. Faith is like that town clerk in Ephesus who allayed the contention of the multitude and argued them soberly into peace (Acts 19:35,36). So when impatience begins to clamor and make a hubbub in the soul, faith appeases the tumult and argues the soul into holy patience. Faith says, "Why are you disquieted, O my soul?" (Psalm 42:5). Are you afflicted? Is it not your Father who has done it? He is carving and polishing you, and making you fit for glory. He smites that he may save. What is your trial? Is it sickness? God shakes the tree of your body so that some fruit may fall, even "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11). Are you driven from your home? God has prepared a city for you (Heb. 11:16). Do you suffer reproach for Christ's sake? "The spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (1 Pet. 4:14). Thus faith argues and disputes the soul into patience.
Pray to God for patience. Patience is a flower of God's planting. Pray that it may grow in your heart, and send forth its sweet perfume. Prayer is a holy charm, to charm down the evil spirit of impatience. Prayer composes the heart and puts it in tune, when impatience has broken the strings and put everything into confusion. Oh, go to God. Prayer delights God's ear; it melts his heart; it opens his hand. God cannot deny a praying soul. Seek him with importunity and either he will remove the affliction—or, which is better, he will remove your impatience!